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Do dryers kill germs?

Do dryers kill germs?: Image shows dryer in laundry room
(Image credit: Getty)

It’s no secret that clothes dryers are designed to make light work of your laundry tasks, but do dryers kill germs, and can these machines take on bed bugs?

The best dryers include the ability to dry clothes at any time of day, at a fraction of the time it would take for items to dry naturally. But how efficient is your dryer when it comes to killing germs?

Temperatures in a standard household dryer can reach up to 135 degrees Fahrenheit but this is not usually hot enough to completely kill all bacteria or sanitize face masks, bed linen, or towels after using even one of the best front load washers. But even though washing and drying won’t get rid of 100 percent of bacteria on fabric, dryers can still help eliminate a lot of nasties. While viruses will often remain on cloth for up to ten hours, if you’re looking to sanitize clothing in the dryer, then it’s best to choose the highest temperature setting your fabric can withstand in order to reduce the likelihood of the germs surviving.

A tip for making sure things are really clean after machine washing and drying (on a face mask for instance), is to also hang them in direct natural sunlight to dry, as the ultraviolet light from the sun is effective in taking on bacteria too, and don’t forget to flip the fabric so that the sunlight hits both sides.

How to kill bacteria with your laundry routine 

While drying is generally more effective at banishing germs than washing, it’s still a good idea to again use a higher temperature for the wash if you are looking to sterilize certain items, or you can use your washing machine’s Sanitize program if it has one. Always read the label on your clothing, though, as you may end up shrinking your laundry if you use a temperature that’s too high for that type of fabric. 

While laundry detergent is effective at cleaning your clothes in the wash, just how effective is it when it comes to killing bacteria? While no detergent can guarantee totally germ-free results, there are certain ingredients to look out for in your laundry products that will help with sanitizing your wash-loads. Look out for chlorine bleach, pine oil, or phenolic disinfectants, but follow the instructions carefully to avoid ruining your clothes. Adding a laundry sanitizer can also help, but again make sure you follow the safety instructions clearly.

How to dry clothes quickly: Image shows dryer with door open and towel inside

(Image credit: Getty)

Do dryers kill bed bugs? 

There are also other nasties that your household appliances can help with. According to the University of Minnesota, ‘thoroughly washing and drying your bed sheets is sufficient to eliminate bed bugs, but it’s the drying part that will really make sure they are well and truly gone. Using the highest temperature setting for around 30 minutes will quickly get rid of the pesky bugs to guarantee fresh sheets that are safe to sleep on.’

But it’s not just your laundry that needs to be fresh, it’s just as essential for the machine to stay clean too. As with any household appliance the dryer will need to be regularly maintained so that it continues to dry well and keep your laundry as hygienic as possible. It’s also important to sanitize your dryer after it has contained laundry that you think might have contained germs or viruses.

Do dryers kill germs?: Image shows person spraying cleaning fluid

(Image credit: Getty Images)

How to clean your dryer  

If a member of your household is ill, then it’s a good idea to wash their laundry as a separate load to avoid cross-contamination. And it’s also worth sanitizing your machine after the wash until their illness has passed. For advice on how to do this, head to our feature on how to clean a washing machine

To clean your dryer, use gloves and then clear the lint from the removable lint screen, making sure you dispose of the lint safely. You can then wipe down the drum and seals with a well-diluted solution of detergent and water, vinegar and water, or a special appliance cleaner. Give a final wipe-down with a clean damp rag. To dry everything off thoroughly place some old rags in the dryer and set on the highest setting for ten to fifteen minutes. While this is running, also wipe down the exterior of the machine. 

To keep the dryer functioning correctly, you can also clean and maintain the vent according to the instruction manual, ensuring you unplug the appliance first.

So the bottom line when it comes to sanitizing your washing in the dryer, is to use the highest heat setting possible. While doing this regularly is not usually energy-efficient, and may even damage your clothes, it’s worth doing if you are looking to sanitize face masks, for example. And don’t forget to seek out some sunshine, to ensure as many germs are eliminated as possible. Ironing can also help kill germs.

If, however, you are looking to banish bed bugs, then the dryer offers the perfect solution for you.